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Sunday, December 8, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Stepmother Charged In 1961 Death

AP

BELLEVILLE, Ill. - The stepmother of a 4-year-old girl whose death in 1961 was blamed on pneumonia was charged with murder after new tests on the girl's exhumed remains showed she was beaten to death, authorities said.

Mary Morgan, 56, was arrested in Texas on Friday, a day after a coroner examined Michele LeAnn Morgan's remains.

The investigation was reopened after Michele's brother, George, who was 8 at the time of her death, claimed last year that he saw his sister bounce "like a rag doll" as their stepmother stomped on her stomach on Aug. 9, 1961. The girl later threw up blood, he said.

Mary Morgan, of West Columbia, Texas, was jailed on $1 million bond and charged with first-degree murder.

George Morgan had requested a copy of his sister's death certificate, which listed the cause of death as pneumonia. He then wrote to the funeral home to say the certificate was incorrect.

The letter was turned over to St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone's office, which exhumed Michele's remains Wednesday.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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